The city of Armagh is one of Ireland's oldest, and is widely recognized as the country's original religious capital. Armagh remains the archdiocesan seat of both the Roman Catholic and Protestant (Church of Ireland) faiths. Historically and officially a city, Armagh would be considered a medium-sized town when compared with other urban areas in Ireland.
The life of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, is deeply entwined in the early history of Armagh. The city's birth occurred during the saint's lifetime; he spent much of his time there; and Armagh's two large cathedrals bear his name.
Today, Armagh retains retains the best of its medieval design, architecture, and charm. The town offers many small shops and larger malls, with some of its main streets (such as Scotch Street) are pedestrian-only. Georgian architecture, complete with terraces, also accents Armagh's beauty, which during the 1970s, 80s and 90s was a scene for some of the sectarian conflict that occurred during Northern Ireland's "troubles". Thankfully, since the signing of the Belfast peace agreement, Armagh enjoys peace and relative prosperity.
One of the main attractions of the town is the Armagh Planetarium, one of Northern Ireland's leading visitor attractions.
St. Patrick and Armagh
- St. Patrick was a missionary, born in Britain, but carried by kidnappers to Ireland where he was forced into service as a shepherd
- Some time later, he escaped and fled to France, where he became a Christian and dedicated himself to a lifelong study of the Christian theology
- He returned to Ireland in 432, arriving in County Down
- He travelled the Irish countryside and towns, converting and baptizing the Celtic tribes, founding churches and encouraging the establishment of monasteries
- St. Patrick spent quite a bit of time in Armagh city, and referred to it as "my sweet hill"
- Today, the Anglican St. Patrick's Cathedral stands on the spot where the Saint Patrick founded his church
- The most popular legend associated with Saint Patrick attributes Ireland's absence of snakes to him. The saint is said to have banished all Ireland's serpents into the ocean
Armagh city, seen from Vicar's Cairn. Image: GreyHobbit